Tag: CELect



Olin’s CELect program offers students an opportunity to engage in management consulting projects for start-ups and early-stage companies. Our team members worked as consultants for St. Louis-based startup NourishSTL.

Founded by Rhonda Smythe, a registered dietitian, and Colleen Clawson, head chef of Milque Toast Bar and Baba Xavi, NourishSTL provides ready-to-eat meals made with locally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients. NourishSTL products range from snacks and essentials to hearty meals, soups and stews.

At the start of our project, Smythe told us they wanted Nourish STL to enter the mainstream grocery market. Our work focused on analyses of operational changes, finances and marketing to help the company achieve this goal. Our team consisted of James Dutton, James Bambury, Hongjin Lyu and me. Each of us had a specific area of expertise, and we delegated our work based upon how we felt our contributions could be the most efficient and impactful.

Our collaboration also played a key role in our success. By working closely with Smythe and with one another, and by providing transparency and flexibility throughout the project, we were a highly effective team. We worked with integrity, excellence and creativity, upholding all of Olin’s core values.

Our conclusions were based on hard data, provided value and had a forward-thinking outlook. For example, one modification we implemented was to change the pricing of items to adequately reflect the premium value of the product. We suggested a 120% markup on 32-ounce packages, a 140% markup on 16-ounce packages and a 30% markdown for wholesale. Given that NourishSTL’s profitability was a concern, we believed that these changes would have an immediate positive impact on cash flow. Our market research also showed that these markups would have little effect on customer willingness to pay.

We developed numerous other recommendations for the company, and one of the things we most appreciated was Smythe’s receptiveness to our suggestions. She immediately implemented several changes based upon our feedback and, likewise, we remained flexible based on her feedback. Our team held Zoom meetings twice a week, one as a group and one with Smythe to ensure our shared direction, and we also communicated frequently through Microsoft Teams.

Our experience in this course had a tangible and immediate impact. Much of what we learned can be applied to our future careers and business endeavors. One highlight from our experience was being able to meet as a team with Smythe, despite COVID, in the kitchen where all of her food is made. In a time of isolation and Zoom calls, having this experience made the work feel “real.” Anyone interested in business, consulting or entrepreneurship should take this course.

Top photo courtesy of NourishSTL.




Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course, held at the T-REx startup accelerator, are sharing their team projects with the Olin Blog. Student team Brittainy Cavender, Jinsoo Chang, Masa Ide, and Jenny Kronick describe the experience of consulting for their client, FocalCast. 


St. Louis-based FocalCast is a live collaboration software that allows audiences to connect and interact with presentations. By providing features like live annotations, digital whiteboards, and polling, FocalCast turns standard presentations into engaging dialogues.

Since its founding, FocalCast has provided an easier way for people to communicate, collaborate, and conduct business on the go. Now it is looking to expand into new markets.

As part of the Fall 2017 CELect class, our team is developing a comprehensive marketing strategy to propel FocalCast’s product into new market verticals. Our approach focuses on researching potential clients and developing leveraged distribution and direct sales strategies to target a variety of players within those key verticals.

Our research emphasizes bottom-up approaches—specifically, interviews with current and prospective customers. The interviews help us determine customers’ current needs and pain points, which will guide us in developing a strategy that addresses these consumer interests. The strategy utilizes both traditional and digital marketing, including organic and paid marketing, to create an optimized plan for lead generation and awareness. The goal is to provide FocalCast with a strategy that will allow them to take the next steps in growing their business and create a strong foothold in the targeted verticals.

Guest Bloggers: Brittainy Cavender, Law ’18, Jinsoo Chang, MBA ’18; Masa Ide,  MBA ’18; Jenny Kronick, PMBA ’18 




Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course, held at the T-REx startup accelerator, are sharing their team projects with the Olin Blog. Student team Logan Bolinger, Alex Clouser, Myiah Johnson, and Chad Littrell describe the experience of consulting for their client, TechArtista. 


The co-working space trend has been continuously growing over the past few years. Over the years, consumer interests and expectations of those spaces have evolved and co-working spaces have evolved with them. TechArtista in St. Louis has been at the forefront of developing a unique cultural experience for its customers to address these demands.

TechArtista is not just a co-working space. It is a community of art, culture, and innovation. As TechArtista sets its sights on expanding to a second location, they turned to the CELect program to help execute this task.

During this project, our team has gained great insight on how TechArtista’s differentiated culture creates value for members. When a plan and process are developed around that culture and replicated, it becomes even more valuable. Through our research, we have found that the most successful spaces are the ones that have been able to grow while still remaining true to their brand. TechArtista’s culture is well-positioned for growth. We plan to add value by proposing a plan that helps them leverage and replicate that culture by instilling new processes.

This CELect experience has been valuable because it has demonstrated how effective an actionable plan can be in the execution of a company’s vision. We have also been taught the importance of staying true to the established values and mission of one’s company. The reasons people have for joining an organization and the organization’s own values can be more significant and more catalyzing than what the company actually does.

Guest Bloggers: Logan Bolinger, Law ’18; Alex Clouser, MBA/Architecture ’18; Myiah Johnson, PMBA, ’17; Chad Littrell, PMBA ’18




Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course, held at the T-REx startup accelerator, are sharing their team projects with the Olin Blog. Student team Andrew Smith, Daniel Kalvaitis, Jeffrey Lantz,  and Trent Pavic describe the experience of consulting for their client, Segue Partners.


Every semester, a few undergraduate and graduate students are chosen to participate in the Center for Experiential Learning’s Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect) program. Participants are paired with St. Louis-area startups and tasked with solving a critical business problem.

Our team was selected for this program, and though we’re only a few weeks in, the journey so far has been intense.

WashU’s esteemed entrepreneurship professors prepared us with an intensive, full-day class. After that, it was our responsibility to meet with our client, determine the scope, plan how to meet deadlines, and deliver the most value possible. Professors provided guidance on aligning the team’s work with the client’s vision. But as with a real startup, we are the ones that need to make everything happen.

The following week, our team met with our client’s founder and core team members to discuss their objectives. Our client, Segue Partners, specializes in tackling the unique accounting and financial consulting needs of private funds and venture capital portfolio companies.

After an intense two-hour meeting, our team was tasked with sizing the market and planning next steps for a concept aimed at providing an innovative solution to back-end accounting services for startups and small businesses in the St. Louis area.

An integral aspect of such a project is to understand the market that exists and the needs of potential customers. To get us started, our team was given some initial contacts to interview. This will come as no surprise to those of us familiar with the St. Louis area, but everyone was incredibly welcoming. One contact often led to another…and another…and another.

In fact, the St. Louis entrepreneurial community is so welcoming that even after several dozen interview requests, not a single person has declined to speak with us. Not one.

Several weeks in and nearly a hundred interviews later, we’re starting to get a clear picture of the needs of potential clients. In addition to interviews, our team is studying competitors, modeling assumptions, aggregating data into actionable insights, and formulating a strategy for the potential launch. Leveraging other lessons that we’ve learned in classes at WashU, we’re almost ready to determine final recommendations.

This has been a tremendously rewarding experience for each member of the team. We’re grateful to the CELect program and WashU for giving us the opportunity to engage with the fascinating world of startups in the area, and for allowing us to give back to the St. Louis community.

Guest bloggers: Andrew Smith, BSBA ’18; Daniel Kalvaitis, BSBA ’18; Jeffrey Lantz, MBA ’18; and Trent Pavic, PMBA’18.




Students in Olin’s CELect course helped create the marketing plan for SafeTrek, a personal mobile safety app that was introduced to the WashU community this fall. Student-led teams in the entrepreneurship consulting course are paired with startups at the downtown accelerator T-Rex and assigned a wide variety of projects.

“The project for SafeTrek is one of many examples where helping a local entrepreneur also helped the community,” said Academic Director for Entrepreneurship Clifford Holekamp.

We asked SafeTrek cofounder Nick Droege about working with CELect teams on the marketing rollout of the app for WashU:

Have the CELect teams provided valuable contributions to your company?

The CELect teams have been extremely valuable in helping us over the past year. From market research to rollout strategies, they’ve made our jobs easier.

The spring 2017 team was diverse mix of law and business students. Did they bring valuable perspectives?

The spring 2017 team was an impressive group. They were able to provide us with valuable insights on campus climate as we geared up to launch at WUSTL’s campus.

[Related: Check out the Spring 2017 CELect team’s take on collaborating with SafeTrek]

What would you tell other startups considering a collaboration with a CELect student team?

Yes. Constantly getting outside perspectives is extremely important as you’re building a company. As founders, it’s easy to hone in on our strategies based on our lenses of how we should execute. Having a group of young, motivated, entrepreneurial spirited students look at what we’re doing and offer their opinions has made us take a step back and evaluate our approaches.


Safetrek recently announced a $3.2 million funding round with St. Louis-based VC firm Cultivation Capital.

The University is continuing to provide SafeTrek FREE OF CHARGE to all students, faculty, staff and Basic Services Contractor employees. To activate your subscription click on the link below and follow the steps: www.safetrekapp.com/affiliate/WUSTL